Following a gloomy offseason marked by some of the darkest moments in program history, Ohio State got back to the business of playing football Saturday and the result couldn’t have been much better.
Featuring several new starters and first-year head coach Luke Fickell, the Buckeyes rolled to a 42-0 victory over outmanned instate rival Akron in front of an opening-day crowd of 105,001 at Ohio Stadium. It was the first season-opening shutout for the Buckeyes since a 43-0 win over Youngstown State in 2008.
Most of the crowd that basked in bright sunshine and 95-degree temperatures came to see what was left of the OSU program in the wake of an NCAA investigation that cost former head coach Jim Tressel his job and resulted in suspensions of several returning starters. What fans got to see was a workmanlike effort by the Buckeyes, who cuffed around their Mid-American Conference opponents to the tune of 516 total yards. The Zips managed only 90.
“Our main focus today was that we wanted to be sharp and we wanted to be fast,” Fickell said. “I thought we did a good job with that.”
Fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman got the start at quarterback and produced an efficient 12-for-16 day in the passing department, connecting for 163 yards and three touchdowns. Each of the scores went to junior tight end Jake Stoneburner, who established a new single-game record for OSU tight ends. Stoneburner scored on receptions of 28, 18 and 2 yards and finished the game with four catches for 50 yards.
Bauserman also ran six times for 32 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
True freshman Braxton Miller also got several reps in relief of Bauserman, and after a rocky start finished with eight completions on 12 attempts for 130 yards and one touchdown. Miller also rushed six times for 30 yards.
Following the game, Fickell indicated the two-quarterback system would continue for the foreseeable future although he heaped praise upon Bauserman.
“I thought they (both) did a good job,” the OSU head coach said. “You have to look at the whole offense. The offensive line gave Joe the ability to settle in and have some confidence. It was really good for Joe to show that leadership and that confidence.
“As far as Braxton is concerned, he handled some adversity early and I thought he did a really good job of handling himself.”
The OSU quarterbacks utilized the services of 11 different receivers in the game. In addition to Stoneburner, redshirt freshman Vernon Reed made the most of his first collegiate start, turning three catches in 66 yards, while true freshman Devin Smith reeled in three balls for 52 yards and a score.
While Bauserman and Miller were combining for 293 yards through the air, the Buckeyes also topped the 200-yard mark on the ground with 224 yards of 51 attempts. Sophomore tailback Carlos Hyde led all rushers in the game with 93 yards on 19 carries while redshirt freshman Rod Smith added 74 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
The Zips never got much going on either side of the ball. Starting quarterback Clayton Moore won a preseason battle over incumbent Patrick Nicely, but Moore managed to complete only 6 of 16 pass attempts for 54 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He was also sacked twice.
Nicely replaced Moore in the fourth quarter and fared even worse. He completed only 1 of 3 passes for 1 yard and was sacked three times.
Moore was his team’s leading rusher with 32 yards on eight carries. Running back Jawon Chisholm had 26 yards on 13 attempts.
Ohio State drew first blood at the 7:24 mark of the first quarter when Bauserman scrambled 15 yards for a touchdown. Sophomore kicker Drew Basil added the extra point and the Buckeyes were off and running.
Stoneburner scored each of the next three OSU touchdowns – two in the second quarter and one in the third – as the Buckeyes broke the game open.
The first was a 28-yard score down the far sideline after Stoneburner muscled Akron cornerback Emmanuel Lartey to the ground. The second was an 11-yard flip from Bauserman during which Stoneburner made Zips linebacker Troy Gilmer whiff on a tackle attempt at about the 5, and the third came on a 2-yard pass drag route in the end zone when the OSU tight end again victimized Lartey.
Basil added PATs after all three touchdowns and the Buckeyes enjoyed a 28-0 advantage with 10:57 remaining in the third period.
“Obviously, Jake had a great day,” Fickell said, “but he did a great job of taking advantage of his opportunities. I kind of expected that, to be honest with you. Jake has had a great camp.”
Miller and Devin Smith hooked up on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 14-yard touchdown before Rod Smith tacked on the game’s final score with a 2-yard touchdown bolt at the 5:51 mark.
Ohio State (1-0) remains home next week to take on another instate MAC rival in Toledo. The Rockets (1-0) rolled to a 58-22 win Thursday night over New Hampshire. Kickoff next Saturday is set for noon Eastern.